Dundalk ease way back to top of table
Athlone Town unable to take advantage of second-half lapse of home team
Beaten by Hajduk Split on Thursday, Stephen Kenny’s men responded in the perfect fashion with three points that move them ahead of Cork City on goal difference.
Called into action
Athlone Town goalkeeper Ryan Coulter was frequently called into action in the first-half, denying Kurtis Byrne’s rasping volley after 14 minutes. Referee Derek Tomney did the goalkeeper a disservice, awarding a goal kick, much to the annoyance of the Dundalk camp.
Richie Towell blazed over from close range before the home side’s pressure told in the 22nd minute. Coulter did superbly to deny Byrne again but Patrick Hoban was on hand to tap home the rebound from close range.
The second goal arrived nine minutes later. Towell floated in a free-kick from the left and Brian Gartland rose highest to head home his seventh of the season.
A John Mulroy drive almost brought Athlone back into it, his effort going just wide.
Gartland thought he had made it 3-0 when he powered home a Darren Meenan free-kick in the 41st minute but Tomney ruled the goal out after a questionable flag from the assistant.
The second-half was a tame affair as Dundalk, with one eye on Thursday’s return leg in Croatia, took their foot off the pedal.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Gannon, Boyle, Gartland, Massey; Towell, Shields; Meenan (McDermott 73), Byrne (Higgins 78), Horgan (Griffin 87); Hoban.
ATHLONE TOWN: Coulter; Quigley (Mulroney 80), D Brennan, Harney, Doyle; S Brennan (Ebbe 70), Dillon, Hughes, O’Brien, Clancy; Mulroy (Sweeney 70).
Referee: Derek Tomney.